Face to Face (1976 film)

Face to Face (Swedish: Ansikte mot ansikte) is a 1976 Swedish psychological drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. It tells the story of a psychiatrist who is suffering from a mental illness. It stars Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson.

Face to Face
Face to face movie poster.jpg
Written byIngmar Bergman
Directed byIngmar Bergman
StarringLiv Ullmann
Erland Josephson
Gunnar Björnstrand
Aino Taube
Kristina Adolphson
Country of originSweden
Original language(s)Swedish
Producer(s)Lars-Owe Carlberg
Running time114-177 minutes (multiple versions)
DistributorParamount Pictures
Original release5 April 1976 (1976-04-05) (United States)
28 April 1976 (1976-04-28) (Sweden)

It is also the film debut of Lena Olin.


The film was conceived and produced as a four-part mini-series on Swedish television with a running time of 177 minutes. The episodes were entitled:

  1. Uppbrottet (The Separation)
  2. Gränsen (The Border)
  3. Skymningslandet (The Twilight Land)
  4. Återkomsten (The Return)

It was edited down for theatrical releases for running times from 114 to 135 minutes. However, the theatrical version premiered first.[1] The film was later screened at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival held in May, but was not entered into the main competition.[2] The television version aired in Sweden over four weeks in May and June of that year, and has not been released for home media.


Dr. Jenny Isaksson (Liv Ullmann) is a psychiatrist who is married to another psychiatrist. Jenny has taken a temporary job as the medical supervisor at a mental hospital while her husband and daughter is in America.

When her husband is away, she lives with her grandparents (Gunnar Björnstrand, Aino Taube) who looked after her when her parents died. She sleeps in her teenage bedroom which brings nostalgia and childhood traumas back into her life. Throughout the film, she keeps seeing visions of a one-eyed old woman who visits her at night. She appears to be suffering from some kind of anxiety and she takes a bunch of pills, and from this point on in the film, the story moves back and forth between Jenny’s hospital room and a series of dream sequences.

In a party in Elizabeth Wankel’s house, ex-wife of Helmouth Wankel (who works in the mental hospital), Elizabeth introduces Jenny to her young boyfriend, Strömberg an actor who is 26 years old younger than Elizabeth, and her other guests. Here, Jenny meets the divorced Tomas (Erland Josephson), he begins to flirt with her, but in the end, they become friends.

Jenny, as a medical supervisor, is obliged to take care of Mari who is suffering from a disorder. One day, Mari is attacked by rapists. When Jenny comes into the house, she attempts to call an ambulance, however two intruders stop her and she is near-raped. She goes with Tomas the rest of the day and at night, she tells Tomas her entire story, telling him that she wanted to have been raped. She cries horrifyingly and has an episode; she demands a taxi ride home. Tomas insists that he drives her home.

She sleeps through the whole night, woke up late and missed work. She has nothing to do as her grandparents are invited to the Egerton’s. She calls Tomas; she wants to go to the movies. She is dizzy and she sees the old woman from before. She hears a strange ringing of a telephone, she takes more than a handful of pills, hums a lullaby-ish tune while drawing something on the wall with her fingers and sleeps. She goes into a dream where she wears a red dress.

In the first and longest dream, she speaks a monologue where she believes that it is hard to breathe when old people like her grandparents smell bad. She encounters an imagined Tomas, who warns her not to open the door to her deep and forgotten memories but she opens it in spite of what he said. She also sees the old woman, who attempted to stifle her by putting her hand on her mouth. In the end of the dream, a woman caresses her head, and Jenny wakes up to see Tomas’s face and she is suctioned and hospitalized.

They talked for a while but she sleeps again. In the second dream, she is at work and there is a long line of patients. All the patients have their own diagnosis and most are surreal. All the patients begin crowding Jenny and attacks her.

In the third dream, she meets with her husband who comes home to her. Her husband asks whether she wants to tell her daughter about what happened or if she wants him to inform grandmother, and they chatted about what has happened in their lives when he was away in America.

In the fourth dream, she sees herself in a coffin that is getting nailed. She remembers her parents. She bangs a door, screaming out her guilt to her parents, she begins crying and she went out of the way. Her parents eventually come out but Jenny attacks them. Jenny wakes up and tells Tomas about her childhood. They share deep secrets to each other. Tomas said that he was never divorced, instead he had lost a friend, Strömberg whom he lived with for many years, revealing that he is a homosexual to Jenny. Apparently, he and Strömberg had ended their relationship due to jealousy. The conversation turns into a monologue as Jenny talks to herself playing the roles of her grandmother and herself and turns into screaming and crying.

A nurse in the hospital interrupts them and tells Jenny that her daughter wants to meet her. She meets with her daughter and wants to comfort her. Jenny asks whether she wants to have lunch sometime, but her daughter tells Jenny that she knew that she never liked her. In the end, Jenny looks at her grandmother and her grandfather’s relationship to find the optimism that she never felt.


Principal cast (in credits order)Edit

Rest of cast (in alphabetical order)Edit


Aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports 82% approval of Face to Face based on 11 reviews. Vincent Canby was highly favorable and wrote, "Mr. Bergman is more mysterious, more haunting, more contradictory than ever, though the style of the film has never been more precise, clear, levelheaded."[3] Roger Ebert, while calling it "confused and sometimes overwrought", awarded it three out of four stars and lauded Ullmann's performance as "one of the greatest performances in an Ingmar Bergman film" up to that point.[4] The film is rated M in New Zealand for violence and sexual violence.


Face to Face was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film by the U.S. National Board of Review.[5] It received nominations at the Academy Awards for Best Actress (Ullmann) and Best Director (Bergman).

Ullmann was nominated by BAFTA in the Best Actress category.

She was also named Best Actress by the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, the National Board of Review and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, with the film winning Best Foreign Language Film at the latter.

It also was named by the Golden Globes as their Best Foreign Language Film of the year, with Ullmann also being nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama.

References in popular cultureEdit

At the beginning of the Woody Allen film Annie Hall, Allen's character refuses to see Face to Face after arriving a few minutes late for a showing. He instead takes Annie (Diane Keaton) to a screening of The Sorrow and the Pity.


  1. ^ "Face to Face (1976)". The Swedish Film Database. The Swedish Film Institute. Archived from the original on 12 April 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Face to Face". festival-cannes.com. Archived from the original on 27 September 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2009.
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (6 April 1976). "Movie Review - Face to Face". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (6 August 1976). "Face to Face Movie Review & Film Summary (1976)". Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  5. ^ "1976 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.

External linksEdit